We’ve yet to see and Akhal-Teke Horse in the flesh but things really get going for us today. We climb aboard our busses for the Exhibition Hall where we find a greeting party of students in traditional dress, dancers, and musicians with Turkmen carpets set out to greet us or maybe they are there to greet someone else, I’m not sure. Also, a ring is set up with horses and horseman prancing around and around. These are lovely long legged horses and oh how they do shine. Our Cowboy Booth is all set up and the President of the country, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, is slated to review the exhibits this morning. His portrait is everywhere including in the center of each booth at the Exhibition Hall.
Everyone we have met has been so kind and helpful. The folks at the embassy, the Horse Association, and the exhibitors here at the hotel all seem to be an interesting lot of people. For instance we met a famous Turkish actor, Jamal Honal, who is fanatical about the ancient art of mounted archery and endurance riding. He keeps 30 Arabian horses outside Istanbul and rides old U. S. made McClellan saddles exclusively. He says the U.S. Government gave the Turkish Army 3000 of these saddles after World War I and they are still the absolute best for long rides and shooting arrows off your horse. We then met a lovely Dutch woman Harmke Westervelt who trains endurance horses on the desert sands for the Sheik of Dubai’s brother. She’s about to join a Gaucho race in Uruguay where they will ride 1000 KM.
When we got to our booth we found out the President would not be coming today but that many dignitaries would be passing through. There was one particularly important party so when they came by we played and Brian, the PR officer for the US Embassy, greeted the party in Russian. When I first met Brian I said to myself, this guy is a Mormon. Sure, he was clean cut but why did I peg him as a Mormon? I just knew. Brian’s a good guy and gave us a savvy view of the country. He told us, for instance, that whenever the President attended anything it added a couple hours onto everyone’s schedule. I did not quite get it till the next day when we joined the Presidents schedule at the Horse Beauty Contest. Brian, his wife Sunny and their two daughters live at the US Embassy compound which we will visit for a barbecue on Sunday.
Gail and Candra left the booth for a couple hours to attend conference sessions. They came back bleary eyed saying that that the whole conference seemed like a lot of posturing, people saying how important the Turkmen horse was, how grateful they were for the horse and the President for supporting the horse breeding efforts and how the breed should be more recognized in the world of horse breeds, not much detail beyond that. Maybe more happens informally. We’ve met a couple folks from Britain and the U.S. who raise and love this breed of horse and they are ecstatic to be here.
Most of the exhibits are commercial, horse products, so our booth with music, chairs, and friendly people was very well attended. I played music most of the day and sang or accompanied everyone, Gail, Linda and Andy. We all had a blast singing our songs for the folks passing by. At the end of the day we were tired but very pleased to have shared our music and cowboy culture at the exhibition. We look forward to the next afternoon when we continue.
That evening we had dinner with a fellow wearing a cowboy hat. It turned out he was from Malaysia. His name is Dato’ Dr. Nek ABD Rahman Saleh. He owns a herd of 3000 mares for the harvesting of their milk for use in a cure for cancer and leukemia. He is an engaging person who has started riding programs for kids of Malaysia and obviously is a big shot in the country. He loved our music and talked about bringing us to Malaysia. That would be fun.